What’s Blooming at Riveredge? An Updated Phenology Report

One of the fantastic Riveredge volunteers, who has been exploring Riveredge trails for years to both take photographs and record observations, is letting us know what she sees blooming at Riveredge. In scientific terms, this is called “Phenology.” What is phenology? It’s very similar to another word, phenomenon. Phenology means what happens, and when, in nature. Some of the most common examples are: when flowers are blooming, when buds are present, when specific migratory bird species return, when birds are nesting.

Chances are, you already notice phenology you just might not call it that. If you notice when your garden is blooming, when the trees are budding, or when butterflies return to the skies – you’re observing phenology! Read below to learn what you can find along the trails when you visit Riveredge Nature Center right now.

Wild Bergamot at Riveredge Nature Center

In Bloom

Bullhead Lily
Fragrant White Water Lily
Yarrow
Heal All
Pretty Bedstraw
Bergamot
Cowbane
Marsh Hedge Nettle
Hoary Vervain
Blue Giant Hyssop
Culver’s Root
Grey Headed Coneflower
Purple Prairie Clover
Prairie Dock
Canada Tick Trefoil
Flowering Spurge
Compass Plant
Orange Jewelweed
Wood Nettle
White Prairie Clover
Purple Coneflower
Agrimony
Dotted Mint
Rosinweed
Mad Dog Skullcap
Virginia Mountain Mint
Evening Primrose
Cup Plant
Whorled Milkweed
Gayfeather
Nodding Wild Onion
Spotted Joe Pye Weed
Rattlesnake Master
Carpenter’s Square Figwort
Canada Goldenrod
Small Purple Fringed Orchid
Clustered Poppy Mallow
Sawtooth Sunflower
Purple Joe Pye Weed
Wild Cucumber
Large leaved Aster
Stinging Nettle
White Snakeroot
Hog Peanut
Great Blue Lobelia
Ironweed
Common Boneset
White Wood Aster
Showy Blazing Star
Rough Blazing Star
Guara
Wild Senna
Round Headed Bush Clover
Canada Milk Vetch
Virgin’s Bower
Indian Pipe
Swamp Lousewort
Swamp Thistle
Green Headed Coneflower
Branched Coneflower
Obedience

Flowers In Bud

Grass of Parnassus
False Boneset

Bug o’the Week – Summer Scenes

Howdy, BugFans,

 

It’s High Summer, and a lot has been going on out there.  Many species have already peaked and disappeared from the scene, assuming, until next year, whatever form they spend the majority of their lives in.  Others are coming into their own.  Here are some of the sights the BugLady has seen in local prairies and wetlands.

ANTS are everywhere, foraging for proteins and carbs, including milkweed nectar to take home to their families.  Some species of ants have workers that are essentially tanker trucks.  Ants are no great shakes as pollinators, due to their slippery little bodies and fastidious grooming habits, and besides that, they’re pedestrians, so the pollen doesn’t travel far.  (Family Formicidae)

BLUE MUD DAUBER WASP – Cup plants have “perfoliate” leaves that look like two “conjoined leaves” but are actually a single leaf whose base is joined around the stem, making it look like the stem is piercing it.  For a few days after a rain, reservoirs made by the cup plant’s leaves hold water that’s appreciated by all sorts of small animals.  The wasp uses mud to construct chambers for her eggs, but she doesn’t carry water to dirt, spit on it, and stir.  She may just be thirsty.  (Family Sphecidae)

STRIPED HAIRSTREAK – The BugLady found this small butterfly of dappled woods and edges while she was surveying water hemlock plants for an up-coming episode.  Adults nectar on available flowers, and Butterflies of the Great Lakes Region tells us that “Early in the morning, they will sip dew from leaves as they bask.”  They’re not-very-common – “scattered lightly over our landscape,” says “The Butterflies of Massachusetts” website, “widely distributed although nowhere abundant.”  The theory is that the eyespots on the hind wing confuse predators.  (Family Lycaenidae)

HORSEFLY – Just a glamour shot of a horse fly, that’s all.  (Family Tabanidae)

PARASITIZED – This dangling caterpillar was discovered in its infancy by a small, parasitic wasp that laid an egg in it.  The wasp larva hatched, and then it ate and grew within the caterpillar, which was trying to do the same, but whose existence had been repurposed.  When it was ready to pupate, the wasp dealt the coup de grace to its unfortunate host, exited, and spun a cocoon on the outside.  As Darwin once said of parasitoids, “I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of Caterpillars.

AMERICAN CARRION BEETLE – The BugLady has seen a number of adult carrion beetles flying around –black and yellow and big and buzzy – trying to convince her that they’re bumble bees, but she rarely sees the larvae.  Adults lay their eggs on dead animals, and then stick around on the carcass doing “pest control” (eating the competition) before their well-armored larvae hatch and for a while afterward.  The larvae will also eat other larvae they find on “their” carrion.  (Family Silphidae)

EASTERN AMBERWING – The BugLady’s favorite insect is the Tiger Swallowtail, but the Eastern Amberwing is on her long list of second-favorites.  This feisty 0.9” dragonfly has an attitude way bigger than its size.  (Family Libellulidae)

A JUMPING SPIDER in the genus Pelegrina (thanks as always for the ID, BugFan Mike) is another critter with attitude.  You can see why jumping spiders have fan clubs.  (Family Salticidae)

COMMON BUCKEYE – The BugLady has way more shots of this beautiful butterfly sitting on the ground than on flowers (when it sits on flowers, it prefers composites); it typically flits along 6’ ahead of her on mowed paths.  It’s a Southern migrant to God’s Country, arriving in early summer, but the migrants produce a brood once they’re here.  The undersides of the wings of the migrants https://bugguide.net/node/view/1460171/bgimage and the later/fall broods https://bugguide.net/node/view/1301685/bgimage are different – if you’re lucky enough to see one with its wings closed.  If the Striped Hairstreak’s eyespots are meant to confuse, the Buckeye’s are meant to intimidate. (Family Nymphalidae)

CINNAMON CLEARWING MOTH – So cool!  So speedy!  Clearwing moths are in the Sphinx moth family Sphingidae; we have two species around here, and the BugLady has plenty of out-of-focus shots of each.  Like chasing sprites.

ROBBER FLY – Some robber flies are small and shy, but Promachus vertebratus is neither.  At about an inch long, it was almost the same size as the Halloween Pennant dragonflies the BugLady was photographing at the same time.  It makes “annoyed” sounds when you kick it up in the fields (attitude again).  These flies prey on anything they can catch – the BugLady has a shot of one holding a Clouded Sulphur butterfly.  (Family Asilidae)

WHITEFACE AND BLUET – The BugLady was stalking dragonflies at Spruce Lake Bog when a Dot-tailed Whiteface dragonfly grabbed a Marsh Bluet damselfly and sat down beside her.  Something buzzed the duo loudly – maybe a robber fly – and the startled dragonfly released its prey.  As the whiteface moved to a different perch, the damselfly shook it off and flew away.  No damselflies were harmed to make this picture.  (Families Libellulidae and Coenagrionidae)

 

Go outside – look at bugs!

 

Kate Redmond, The BugLady

Bug of the Week archives:
http://uwm.edu/field-station/category/bug-of-the-week/

August Road Work Closures and Alternate Routes to Riveredge

Don’t worry, it’s not autumn yet. Just a pretty picture we had handy of the road to Riveredge.

Starting on Monday August 10th the Highway Department will be replacing culverts along highway Y, you will start to see road closure message boards this week. The project is expected to take three weeks – the good news is only the following days will impact Riveredge traffic:

WEDNESDAY Aug 12th,  THURSDAY Aug 13th and MONDAY Aug 17th there will be no access to Riveredge from Highway 33 (road closure time will be 6am to 4pm). This means you will need to use an alternate route such as Hwy I to Hawthorne Drive to Riveredge. This route will be open to Riveredge for the majority of the project timeline. PLEASE NOTE there will be barricades in place at Hwy I and Hawthorne Drive but there will be access to Riveredge from this route.

**VERY IMPORTANT** MONDAY August 17th work will take place directly in front of Riveredge. PLEASE plan ahead as access to the parking lot at the Center may be a challenge. Parking at the Sugarbush House and walking to Riveredge may be necessary. After August 17th work will proceed to the north of Riveredge on Hwy Y so access to Riveredge should not be an issue, however the road closed signs will remain until the project is completed. NOTE: The Highway Department does not work on Fridays or weekends so the road will be open with access to Riveredge.

Further Notes: The Highway Department will start work on Monday August 10th just North of the corner of Hwy Y and Hawthorne Drive, this work is expected to take two days. This will not affect traffic on Hawthorne Drive or Hwy Y to Riveredge and access from Hwy 33 to Riveredge will be open until Wednesday as stated above.

Bug o’the Week – Dragonhunter

Greetings, BugFans,

 

Dragonfly July is drawing to an end.

 

The BugLady’s younger daughter and her friends have been taking to our northern woods and lakes this summer (where the cool bugs are), and she’s sent tantalizing pictures of her encounters.  A large Emerald dragonfly perched in the middle of her campsite, a spectacular darner, and this guy, a Dragonhunter, which apparently checked them out as they paddled, sat on a kayak, and even sat on one of the paddlers.  Shout-out and photo credit to BugFan Laurel.

The BugLady thinks of this species, like loons, as the voice of the north woods, and while it is true that it occurs in the northern half of Wisconsin, its range actually extends from the Maritime Provinces to Manitoba to Texas (except for southern Wisconsin/northern Illinois and the south end of Florida).  Look for it along sunny rivers and streams with a moderate/fast current, on lakes and bays, or foraging over open roadways or along woodland edges.

 

This is one spectacular dragonfly, and everything it does is larger than life; Kurt Mead (Dragonflies of the North Woods) calls it “a legendary insect.”  It is 3 ½” long and is often called our bulkiest/most massive dragonfly.  Its coloring is a stark yellow and black with black legs and black-veined wings (its naiad is unique, too).  Its behavior is aggressive – and inquisitive – and its choice of prey is startling.  Even its pedigree is unusual.  The Dragonhunter, aka the Black Dragon (Hagenius brevistylus), is the largest of our clubtails (family Gomphidae) and is an American specialty, the only member in its genus (its closest, relatives, equally large, are in the genus Sieboldius on the Asian continent).

Here’s what they look like when they’re not perched on the bow of a lime green kayak – an adult male https://bugguide.net/node/view/262939/bgimage, an adult female https://bugguide.net/node/view/1149299/bgimage, and a face to face https://bugguide.net/node/view/732248/bgimage.  The club at the end of the abdomen is pretty narrow, and the downward-curved tip of the abdomen is typical, even in flight.

Their long, strong wings allow them to chase fast-flying prey (they can hit about 25 mph) and their legs are equipped with stout spines so they can hang onto it.  Legler, in Dragonflies of Wisconsin, says, “When feeding it perches on dirt roads waiting for other dragonflies, including darners, to fly down the road. The Dragonhunter then swoops up after the darner from behind. Or it may perch on branches high in treetops. It then swoops down on passing dragonflies and back up to the treetop to eat.”  Dragonflies (sometimes even other Dragonhunters), make up a respectable proportion of their menu (here’s one with a Widow Skimmer https://bugguide.net/node/view/905550/bgimage).

 

So, too, do large butterflies https://bugguide.net/node/view/1104558/bgimage.  One author reported seeing a pile of swallowtail wings beneath a perch frequented by a Dragonhunter, and they also hunt for monarchs, especially when monarchs are numerous.  Monarch butterflies, of course, are poisonous due to the milkweed sap they ingest as caterpillars; the highest levels of toxins are in their wings, but the Dragonhunters discard those, preferring the butterfly’s thorax and abdomen.  When pressed by Dragonhunters, monarchs change their behavior, eschewing their preferred sunlight and feeding in the shade that Dragonhunters avoid.

 

And then there are hummingbirds.  The BugLady found a note in the journal of a Welsh dragonfly society about one of its members who, while on vacation in Canada, came across a Dragonhunter attempting to subdue a Ruby-throated Hummingbird that was about the same size.  He managed to separate them (carefully and with some difficulty) and they went their separate ways (Yes, there’s a picture.  Scroll down. https://www.cofnod.org.uk/OpenCalendarFile.ashx?ID=1122&AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1).

 

They seem impervious to the stings of bees and wasps, which they also catch.

 

The dark, quarter-sized naiads https://bugguide.net/node/view/1640761/bgimage, disguised among the fallen leaves on the river’s floor, eat small invertebrates including other dragonfly naiads, and young amphibians and fish.

 

Male Dragonhunters are territorial, showing off along the sunny edges of their waterways.  They mate in the treetops https://bugguide.net/node/view/302261/bgimage and don’t do a lot of tandem flying, and the female often emerges from the experience a little the worse for wear (as Ohio nature writer Jim McCormac says, “The courtship is Neanderthalish, no gentle New Age insect here.”).  Males have short, strong claspers, and his firm grasp often punctures her head or eyes.  Both male and female are polygamous.

 

Females fly across short stretches of open water, ovipositing by tapping the tip of her abdomen into the water or by tossing eggs in from above (Legler again, “Or, most remarkably, she sometimes swings her abdomen rigidly like a golf club knocking little a globule of eggs and water up onto the bank!”).  Eggs are gel-covered and sticky and are soon camouflaged by a layer of silt.  The naiad stage is a long one, lasting from four to seven years, depending on the water temperature, and not surprisingly, the naiads are pretty freeze-tolerant.  Like some other clubtails, they stage large, synchronized emergences in early summer, with naiads leaving the water en masse and crawling up onto the shore and even up tree trunks https://bugguide.net/node/view/23665/bgimage.  Adults live about three months.

 

Females are colored similarly to males, and unlike many other dragonfly species, are found around the water when not breeding (no one messes with her).

 

The Twentieth century brought an unneeded complication into the lives of Dragonhunter naiads, in the form of alien zebra mussels, immigrants from Europe that like to fasten to stationary objects (for more about zebra mussels see https://uwm.edu/field-station/a-tale-of-two-mussels-the-one-two-punch/).  Their round, flat shape and the fact that, unlike other clubtail species, the naiads don’t burrow makes them an attractive substrate to the mussels.  A small load of mussels doesn’t affect the naiad’s feeding but can hinder its final molt.

 

Paulson, in Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East, says that “Adults at water usually approachable” https://bugguide.net/node/view/706067/bgimage, and the Dragonhunter is sitting on the kayaker’s head, and that brings us to the BugLady’s friend Joe, who walked to the shore of a northern lake, put out his hand, and a Dragonhunter came in and sat on it.

 

Kate Redmond, The BugLady

Bug of the Week archives:
http://uwm.edu/field-station/category/bug-of-the-week/

What’s Blooming at Riveredge? An Updated Phenology Report

One of the fantastic Riveredge volunteers, who has been exploring Riveredge trails for years to both take photographs and record observations, is letting us know what she sees blooming at Riveredge. In scientific terms, this is called “Phenology.” What is phenology? It’s very similar to another word, phenomenon. Phenology means what happens, and when, in nature. Some of the most common examples are: when flowers are blooming, when buds are present, when specific migratory bird species return, when birds are nesting.

Chances are, you already notice phenology you just might not call it that. If you notice when your garden is blooming, when the trees are budding, or when butterflies return to the skies – you’re observing phenology! Read below to learn what you can find along the trails when you visit Riveredge Nature Center right now.

Butterfly-weed blooming at Riveredge Nature Center

Butterfly-weed blooming at Riveredge Nature Center.

In Bloom

Bull Head Lily
Bladderwort
Fragrant White Water Lily
Hoary Alyssum
Yarrow
Spreading Dogbane
Heal All
Black Eyed Susan
Enchanter’s Nightshade
Wild Leek
Fringed Loosestrife
Butterfly Weed
Indian Hemp
Rough Fruited Cinquefoil
Bergamot
Queen of the Prairie
Cowbane
Marsh Hedge Nettle
Pointed Leaved Tick Trefoil
Shrubby St John’s Wort
Hoary Vervain
Blue Giant Hyssop
Lead Plant
Culver’s Root
Grey Headed Coneflower
Purple Prairie Clover
Prairie Dock
Canada Tick Trefoil
Flowering Spurge
Compass Plant
Orange Jewelweed
Wood Nettle
Pickerel Weed
White Prairie Clover
Wild Petunia
Purple Coneflower
Agrimony
Lopseed
Dotted Mint
Rosinweed
Virginia Mountain Mint
Cup Plant
Whorled Milkweed
Gayfeather
Nodding Wild Onion
Starry Campion
Spotted Joe Pye Weed
Blue Vervain
Rattlesnake Master
Carpenter’s Square Figwort
Canada Goldenrod
Small Purple Fringed Orchid
Clustered Poppy Mallow

Pink Plumes of Queen of the Prairie at Riveredge.

Flowers In Bud

Large Leaved Aster
Showy Blazing Star

Bug o’the Week – Powdered Dancer

Howdy, BugFans,

The BugLady is a frequent visitor to the Milwaukee River at Waubedonia Park in July, because that’s where the magic is.

Arrow Clubtails make their maiden flights up into the trees just 45 minutes after emerging from their nymphal skins (leaving the skins – exuvia – as signs of their passing).

arrow clubtail exuvia

Arrow Clubtail exuvia

Arrow Clubtail

Silvery, new Stream Bluets cling to plants while their elders fly in tandem;

Stream Bluet

Stream Bluet pair

Common Whitetails chase everything;

Common Whitetail

and incomparable Ebony Jewelwings teeter on reeds.

Ebony Jewelwing

And the number of American Rubyspot pictures that she’s taken there this year may be a personal best.

American Rubyspot

But – oh my – the Powdered Dancers!

The first time she walked the shoreline six years ago the river was low, and mats of Potamogeton (pond weed) undulated on the surface about 10 feet offshore.  And on those mats were ovipositing pairs of Powdered Dancers – slender damselflies taking their chances on a big river.

Along with bluets, sprites, and forktails, dancers are members of the Pond/Narrow-winged damselfly family Coenagrionidae.  At 1.5” to 1.7” long, Powdered Dancers (Argia moesta) are both the largest in their genus and the largest in their family.  Argia, inexplicably, comes from an Ancient Greek word meaning “laziness” (but they aren’t), and “moesta” means sorrowful, a possible reference to wearing ashes in mourning.

Powdered Dancer

Don’t look for Powdered Dancers around the edge of a pond – this species is found next to running water or on the shores of large lakes, especially where there are emergent rocks to sit on.  Their color camouflages them there and so does their habit of sitting with their wings folded at their sides rather than over the abdomen, which gives them a lower profile.

Pruinosity puts the “powder” onto Powdered Dancers.  As they mature, males produce tiny, waxy plates that coat their exterior and turn them from dark to pale (see the first picture in this series http://southwestdragonflies.net/damsels/PowederedDancerPierreDeviche.html).  Females come in brown and blue morphs, and they also change color during their three or four weeks as adults.  Blue morph females https://bugguide.net/node/view/1402906/bgimage look like Blue-fronted Dancers https://bugguide.net/node/view/1724345/bgimage, and brown form female Powdered Dancers https://bugguide.net/node/view/1713039/bgimage look like brown form female Blue-fronted Dancers https://bugguide.net/node/view/1573201.

Paulson, in Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East, speculates that “Perhaps pruinosity confers resistance to high temperatures, as this may be the only odonate active at streams on sunny days exceeding 37 degrees C.” (When the BugLady was in grade school in the ‘50’s, her teachers said “Learn the metric system – the US will be switching any day now.”  37 degrees is a scorching 98.6 degrees F.)

Back to the river.  Studies show that even though they are somewhat territorial, pairs of Powdered Dancers are attracted to floating leaves that have other pairs of Powdered Dancers already ovipositing on them.  It’s called an “oviposition aggregation.”  The presence of multiple pairs may cut down on harassment by unattached males and by predators, and also on the time a pair may search for a suitable spot to oviposit (which Paulson lists as 3 to 49 minutes).  Researchers found this out by populating floating leaves with tiny models of Powdered Dancers, some resting, some coupled.

In many species where the male contact-guards the female (maintains his hold on the back of her head) as she descends to insert eggs into/onto underwater vegetation, he is not quite as committed to total immersion as she is and will release her if she goes too deep.  Powdered Dancer males seem to be all in.  It’s not clear why – the dangers he is guarding her from are in the air.  Look at the picture that shows a few partly-submerged pairs at the left, and then look to the right for several pairs that are completely underwater (when he saw the picture, BugFan Bob said that there are some “Maybe this is deep enough” conversations going on down there) (he said some very scholarly things, too).

Pairs can stay under for an hour or more and have been found more than a yard (meter) below the surface.  The naiads https://bugguide.net/node/view/1380567/bgimage hide under stones and debris and overwinter in a late-stage, crawling out of the water to emerge as adults early the next summer.

Powdered Dancers are active, but they stay at home in a relatively short stretch of the river bank; and while females and immatures may fly inland, mature males seldom stray far from the water.

Damselflies eat other invertebrates, both underwater as naiads and in the air as adults.  Female Powdered Dancers are avid hunters whose diet includes other damselflies, even other Powdered Dancers.

Fun Powdered Dancer Fact: researchers in Ontario found midge larvae hitchhiking (harmlessly) on Powdered Dancer naiads, a phenomenon called phoresy.  The probable advantages for the midge larvae are a larger, more stable port in a current, and they don’t have to use as much energy moving around.  The damselfly naiads are not affected by the arrangement.

Kate Redmond, The BugLady

Bug of the Week archives:
http://uwm.edu/field-station/category/bug-of-the-week/

Diversity Outdoors, Part 2

July 23, 2020

Dear Riveredge Family,

 

We promised to keep you updated on our work in decreasing systemic barriers for communities of color when accessing the outdoors. 

Since sharing our last reflections with you, we’ve had friends of Riveredge ask us to communicate the work we are already, and have been, engaged in to ensure access to Riveredge for communities throughout southeastern Wisconsin. Others have asked us to clarify our position. We have appreciated hearing all of these comments. Our intent is always to be transparent, honest, and work to build bridges, through nature, within our communities. 

Riveredge supports our local communities and values our strong partnerships with a wide variety of organizations, municipalities, institutions, and community members. We are grateful for the dedicated work of our local police and county sheriff departments, and thankful for all they do to serve not only Riveredge but all of our neighbors and communities.  

Our mission-based work on better serving diverse audiences is centered around equitable access to the natural world. Access which currently has many barriers for communities of color.  We are working to identify and address these barriers at Riveredge. 

For more than 20 years, Riveredge has been involved in transformative partnerships to provide access to many urban Milwaukee schools for learning, engagement, and exploration. Through several different partnerships, over 1,500 students in 65+ different classes come to Riveredge each year. As with other school partnerships, students engage in inquiry and science-based learning explorations in the prairies, forests, and rivers. 

One of the many goals of these partnerships is to help people develop a broader sense of community and sense of place through immersive experiences in the fully restored natural world at Riveredge. Exploring the Milwaukee River and natural world in a non-urban setting and comparing these observations to those in an urban setting leads to further learning in multiple subject areas. In fact, one of our goals at Riveredge is to also develop partnerships with rural and suburban schools to support the same, yet reverse, experience for their students. The beauty of the Milwaukee River as it runs through an urban environment can be just as inspirational for students who have only been exposed to nature in less populated areas. Additionally, what is discovered downstream toward Lake Michigan is an accumulation of everything that makes its way into a river upstream.  The parallels between learning about nature in both urban and rural environments can help us all draw better understandings about commonalities in our urban and rural communities. 

Partnerships have been fundamental at Riveredge to better serve populations who have barriers to accessing nature. Our partnership with the Ozaukee County Aging & Disability Resource Center has resulted in a nature-based “Memory Cafe” for individuals with memory challenges and their caregivers. This program  has introduced time in nature as a healing tool for this community. Similarly, we were elated when Access Ability Wisconsin reached out to us to place an all-terrain wheelchair at Riveredge so that all people, regardless of physical ability, could access the beauty and adventure of the 10-miles of trails at Riveredge. Both of these partnerships have provided more equitable access to nature for many people at Riveredge.

Our pledge to do better in providing equitable access to Riveredge for communities of color is a further step along this path of our diversity, equity, and inclusion work. Specifically, we are currently….

  • Making plans for an organization-wide diversity, equity, and inclusion audit to help us better understand the current environment at Riveredge and our strengths and opportunities for improvement in this area. We are hoping to continue our work with Cream City Conservation on this effort and are currently seeking funding to support the implementation of this audit.
  • Pursuing regional discussions about how the Milwaukee River can be used as a conduit to address the urban – rural divide in southeastern Wisconsin. As an organization which strives to connect our communities to the Milwaukee River Watershed, we believe the work to use this natural resource as a figurative and literal connection between communities can be enhanced and further developed.
  • Seeking meaningful partnerships with other organizations to better serve communities of color both at Riveredge and through programming efforts within the communities of southeastern Wisconsin. Just as with all of Riveredge’s significant efforts, true partnerships create greater impact. We do not pretend to be experts in this area, yet we look forward to discovering ways that the beauty, inspiration, and education at Riveredge can be better shared within our communities. 
  • Identifying ways to further our education about diversity, equity and inclusion topics for our staff and Board of Directors team. Education is an ongoing process, and we pledge to continue this journey in the months and years to come.

We can not do this work alone, and we can not do it effectively without working with others. We look forward to the months and years to come with optimism, opportunity, and hope, and inevitably some of this process will be a struggle. We strive to continue the work of better serving our community through the act of listening, dialog, and relationship building. 

Thank you for being part of this Riveredge Family. Thank you for believing in the importance of the natural world and in the critical work to ensure it is accessible for everyone.

 

With Great Gratitude,

 

 

 

Jessica Jens, Executive Director

  

What’s Blooming at Riveredge? An Updated Phenology Report

One of the fantastic Riveredge volunteers, who has been exploring Riveredge trails for years to both take photographs and record observations, is letting us know what she sees blooming at Riveredge. In scientific terms, this is called “Phenology.” What is phenology? It’s very similar to another word, phenomenon. Phenology means what happens, and when, in nature. Some of the most common examples are: when flowers are blooming, when buds are present, when specific migratory bird species return, when birds are nesting.

Chances are, you already notice phenology you just might not call it that. If you notice when your garden is blooming, when the trees are budding, or when butterflies return to the skies – you’re observing phenology! Read below to learn what you can find along the trails when you visit Riveredge Nature Center right now.

Turk’s Cap Lily in the sunshine.

In Bloom

Bladderwort
Fragrant White Water Lily
Hoary Alyssum
Yarrow
Spreading Dogbane
Pale Purple Coneflower
Harebell
Heal All
Black Eyed Susan
Wild Quinine
False Sunflower
Enchanter’s Nightshade
Wild Leek
Fringed Loosestrife
Butterfly Weed
Indian Hemp
Common Milkweed
Rough Fruited Cinquefoil
Bergamot
Turk’s Cap Lily
Queen of the Prairie
Cowbane
Marsh Hedge Nettle
Pointed Leaved Tick Trefoil
Shrubby St. John’s Wort
Hoary Vervain
Blue Giant Hyssop
Swamp Milkweed
Lead Plant
Culver’s Root
Grey Headed Coneflower
Purple Prairie Clover
Canada Tick Trefoil
Flowering Spurge
Compass Plant
Orange Jewelweed
Wood Nettle
Pickerel Weed
Tuberous Indian Plantain
White Prairie Clover
Purple Coneflower
Agrimony
Lopseed
Dotted Mint
Rosinweed
Mad Dog Skullcap
Virginia Mountain Mint
Evening Primrose
Cup Plant
Whorled Milkweed
Gayfeather
Nodding Wild Onion
Starry Campion

What’s Blooming at Riveredge? An Updated Phenology Report

One of the fantastic Riveredge volunteers, who has been exploring Riveredge trails for years to both take photographs and record observations, is letting us know what she sees blooming at Riveredge. In scientific terms, this is called “Phenology.” What is phenology? It’s very similar to another word, phenomenon. Phenology means what happens, and when, in nature. Some of the most common examples are: when flowers are blooming, when buds are present, when specific migratory bird species return, when birds are nesting.

Chances are, you already notice phenology you just might not call it that. If you notice when your garden is blooming, when the trees are budding, or when butterflies return to the skies – you’re observing phenology! Read below to learn what you can find along the trails when you visit Riveredge Nature Center right now.

Heal All

In Bloom

Bullhead Lily
Bladderwort
Prairie Phlox
Canada Anemone
Fragrant White Water Lily
Spiderwort
Lance Leaved Coreopsis
White Wild Indigo
Hoary Alyssum
Prairie Golden Aster
Yarrow
Wild Garlic
Spreading Dogbane
Pale Purple Coneflower
Tall Beardtongue
White Avens
Poke Milkweed
Harebell
Heal All
Pale Spike Lobelia
Black Eyed Susan
Wild Quinine
False Sunflower
Enchanter’s Nightshade
Wild Leek
Fringed Loosestrife
Marsh Phlox
Butterfly Weed
Pretty Bedstraw
Indian Hemp
Common Milkweed
Downy Wood Mint

Yarrow

Flowers in Bud

Grey Headed Coneflower
Rosinweed
Spotted Joe Pye Weed
Stinging Nettle
Common Boneset
Purple Prairie Clover
Compass Plant
Gayfeather

Bug o’the Week – Spatterdock Darner

 Howdy, BugFans,

The BugLady had a great June, hitting the trails and photographing insects.  Not surprisingly, many of the insects that wandered past her lens were dragons and damsels, so “Closed for June” may morph into “Odonates for July.”

Isn’t this a spectacular animal!!!  BugFan Freda (aka the Dragonfly Whisperer) found it and then showed it to the BugLady.

A few words about Freda’s discovery.  First, she wasn’t looking for it, and the spot where she found it does not look at all auspicious from the road (it’s a tiny, gravel parking lot surrounded by shrubs and small trees).  She stopped and looked because … well … because she did.  The BugLady suspects that Freda is tuned into the zinging of the Cosmos.

Second, the Spatterdock Darner isn’t even on the list for the county she was in (find county lists under the map icon at the lower right-hand corner at http://wiatri.net/inventory/odonata/).  In fact, it’s only been recorded in a few counties in the central and southeastern parts of Wisconsin.

Third, as she explored the vicinity a little more, she found more Spatterdock darners, possibly breeding, and she found another unlisted darner.  The moral of the story is that we should, metaphorically, stop and smell the roses/odonates.  If our travels take us by that low spot in the road where a guard rail marks a little pool or stream, or past a big swamp where we always see dragonflies in the air, we should pull off and take a look (with a nod to poison ivy, ticks, mosquitoes, deer flies, soft shoulders, and No Trespassing signs).

Spatterdock, AKA Yellow pond lily and Bullhead lily (Nuphar advena), is a floating-leaved aquatic plant that’s rooted in the bottom of the pond.  Spatterdock Darners AKA, Spring Blue Darners (Rhionaeschna mutata), are dragonflies in the family Aeshnidae.  Until 2003 they were classified with the mosaic/blue darners in the genus Aeshna (to review “mosaic darners,” see this episode about the Green-striped Darner https://uwm.edu/field-station/green-striped-darner/), but now they’re in a genus of tropical darners.

[Short grammatical aside:  the “c” in the genus name keeps popping in and out.  Absent in family Aeshnidae; absent in the genus Aeshna; present in darner genera RhionaeschnaBasiaeschna, and Gomphiaeschna.  It’s not just the BugLady’s capricious spelling.]

This is a big dragonfly, up to 3” long, that one source described (perhaps unnecessarily?) as “very blue.”  Its eyes are distinctive (but are shared by the equally-awesome Blue-eyed Darner http://wiatri.net/inventory/odonata/SpeciesAccounts/SpeciesDetail.cfm?TaxaID=170, a genus member that is also a Wisconsin rarity).  Females are slightly duller in color, and there are some brown form females.  Also distinctive is its flight period – as one of its common names suggests, this is an early dragonfly, aloft in Wisconsin from late May through June, before most of the mosaics that it could be confused with.

They’re found over a pretty large chunk of geography – Ontario to Kentucky, and then west to the Mississippi River – but they aren’t common anywhere within that range.  Their global conservation status is listed as “secure,” but they are considered endangered or threatened in most of the states where they occur.  Ontario Odonata calls them “one of Ontario and Canada’s rarest dragonflies.”

Habitat plays a role in that story.  Although they not as closely linked to water lilies as Lilypad Forktails are (https://uwm.edu/field-station/a-species-on-the-march/), they will use water lilies if they’re available.  Their habitat requirements are narrow – for reproduction, they prefer shallow, peaty, fish-free ponds, backwaters, open marshes, boggy waters, and sometimes ephemeral wetlands with lots of aquatic vegetation and with woody edges, and they don’t stray far away from those spots as adults.  Such wetlands used to be more common, but early settlers in this and other states put a lot of energy into draining and filling them.  Presumably, the species is rare in Wisconsin because it is new here and is just establishing populations.

It’s hard to make management plans for a species when we just don’t know that much about them.  Spatterdock Darner populations can be scarce and local – and transient – disappearing from sites they had previously occupied.  In one study, Minnesota researchers failed to locate them in an area where they had been reported just a year before, despite searching 25 likely wetlands in the area.  The researchers suspected that fish may have been introduced (not necessarily by humans – waterfowl carry fish eggs on their feet and in their guts) and were eating the naiads, but changes in water chemistry, pollution, oxygen levels, sediment, ground water, etc. may also have affected the breeding sites.

Much of what we know about Spatterdock Darners comes from the observations of Edward Bruce Williamson, a Michigan banker who was, in the early days of the 20th century, an acclaimed dragonfly expert.  He found Spatterdock Darners while surveying Vanemon Swamp in Indiana.  Writing for the Entomological News (July 8, 1908) he said, “In Wells County, Indiana, are a few remnants of a the old swamps which fifty years ago made the chills and ague of this county a constant menace to the early settlers and a perennial joke for those too wise to invade such an inhospitable wilderness.       On June 23 [1907] I was at the marsh early in the morning.  As soon as I arrived I noticed Aeshnas flying low over the marsh.  A small patch of spatterdock in open water was repeatedly visited, the Aeshnas flying slowly in and out, with much stationary fluttering among the leaf stems.      On bright mornings when the eastern sky was clear they were hunting over the west side of the marsh at 4:45 o’clock.  One cloudy morning they did not appear at all.  After 9 or 10 o’clock their visits to the marsh were rare and they were more wary, leaving the marsh when any attempt was made to approach them and flying directly to or above the tree tops.  Aeshna mutata spend most of the day after 9 or 10 A.M. either resting in the trees or flying about over the tree tops, probably the latter.”

[He also wrote that “In early spring dainty crustaceans (Brachypus vernalis) [fairy shrimp] in half invisible schools pulsate their aimless ways.”]

Adults catch flying insects in sunny patches at wooded edges, and males patrol for females over open water or along its edges.  In Dragonflies through Binoculars, Dunkle says that “Males patrol low over the vegetation with a leisurely, erratic flight for 10 to 15 minutes at a time, paying special attention to flowers of plants such as spatterdock.”  According to the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife’s Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program, “Spatterdock Darners are active on sunny days. Males patrol breeding sites, typically flying lengthy beats several feet above the water’s surface.  When more than one male is present, aggressive interactions are frequent and often end with one male chasing another high over the tree tops and out of sight.     The appearance of a female generally results in a moment of fevered chaos as one or more males tries to seize the female.     Once successfully coupled, the pair flies off high into the nearby woodland to mate.

Spatterdock females oviposit (lay eggs) in emergent or aquatic vegetation at the water’s surface.       Females have been observed ovipositing in the stems of spatterdock (Nuphar sp.), pondweed (Potamogeton sp.), and the dead stalks of cattails (Typha spp.).    The eggs probably hatch within 30 days, but the nymph may take as long as 3–4 years to reach maturity.”

The naiads hatch and don’t stray far from their natal plant, stalking their prey as they climb around in the thicket of underwater stems.

The BugLady has heard that there might be a 12-Step Program for dragonfly enthusiasts (but -– why???).  An alternative to the Program might be a new camera lens or a pair of those nifty binoculars that allow you to focus on dragonflies that are only a few feet away.  Group therapy will be provided for dragonfly addicts at the Riveredge Nature Center annual Dragonfly Count (this year, combined with the Butterfly Count), which will be held on July 11, from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.  Come for part or all of the day, and bring your own munchies, sunscreen, and plenty of water.  For more information or to register, contact Mary at mholleback@riveredge.us or 262-416-1224.  Pre-registration is required, as are face masks while checking in, while indoors and where social-distancing is difficult outdoors.  (A $5 donation per attendee is welcomed.)

Kate Redmond, The BugLady

Bug of the Week archives:
http://uwm.edu/field-station/category/bug-of-the-week/